American Legion Post 555 honors first responders

Published 12:40 pm Monday, July 10, 2023

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By BARTON PERKINS | Staff Writer

Pelham – American Legion Post 555 honored six first responders during an awards ceremony on Thursday, July 7. 

The event occurred at the Pelham Senior Center and was attended by senior leadership from first responder organizations, friends, family and Post 555 members.

Texas Roadhouse catered the event, and Post 555 Commander Barry Blount greeted award recipients.

Matthew Sulenski and Nicholas Lemoine of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office were awarded 2023 Deputy of the Year for their heroic actions on August 2, when responding to a Lifesaver Helicopter crash near Highway 43 in Sterrett.  

Officer Iliana Hayakahua of the Pelham Police Department and Cpl. David Sharpe of the Alabaster Police Department were both awarded 2023 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.

Hayakahua was recognized for the incident in which she responded to a call for a man who had barricaded himself in a hotel room with a gun. When she arrived on the scene, she quickly assessed the situation and immediately took charge of the negotiations by establishing a rapport with the gunman and convincing him to surrender peacefully.

Sharpe was awarded for an incident where he played a huge role in saving a driver’s life, after receiving a call to assist the Alabaster Fire Rescue service for a severe wreck with injuries, Sharpe quickly assessed the scene and confirmed the information about the driver. He then ran to his patrol vehicle and retrieved his “lock-out equipment.”  Returning to the vehicle, he used the equipment and stabilized the driver as medics arrived. The driver suffered an acute medical condition which caused him to go unconscious and wreck the vehicle. Sharpe’s actions that day saved the driver’s life, who has since made a remarkable recovery.

Brent Rejonis of the Pelham Fire Department was named 2023 Fire Fighter of the Year for his completion of the Medical Dive course, which certifies Rejonis in Dive Rescue. The program took 18 months and 240 hours of training to complete.

David Fuentes of the Pelham Police Department was awarded 2023 Public Safety Telecommunicator for being a dispatch supervisor, always willing to give colleagues help and advice and for the much-needed Spanish translations he provides to the department.

Jack Combs was named 2023 Eagle Scout of the Year for his dedication to Scout Troop 404 and his Eagle Scout Project that provided Pelham Park Middle School with four wheelchair-accessible picnic tables. He was assisted by fellow troop members, family members and received donations from Post 555.

Before the event ended, as a show of support to Officer Elizabeth Minter, who continues to recover after being hit by a vehicle during a traffic incident, Post 555 raised $1,500 at the event, and the money will be given to the Pelham Police Auxiliary on Minter’s behalf.